What exactly happened last Tuesday?

Posted: Friday, August 27, 2010

You didn't have to be a political pundit to be taken aback at this week's results in the primary between GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski and challenger Joe Miller.

Only the tea party stalwarts can claim they never had any doubts that Miller would come out ahead. Seriously, everyone else is scratching their heads wondering how Murkowski could come so close to the brink of defeat.

With 99 percent of the precincts in, Miller was leading Murkowski with just under 51 percent of the vote. Thousands of absentee ballots need to be counted, but a scant few believed this election would even be close.

Peninsula voters were even more ready for Miller time: the self-proclaimed constitutional conservative carried this region with 59 percent.

So, what does Tuesday's vote say?

Maybe the political analysts didn't appreciate the genuine feelings of anger, frustration and fear that voters hold -- about the economy, their futures, with change in general. Maybe the pundits totally ignored the intense feelings of voter helplessness, especially among Alaskans. And, admit it, we aren't a very patient people when we're feeling anxious.

That's why Murkowski's litany about what she's done for Alaska didn't carry the day. Instead, it was Miller's message about things gone wrong in our country and how we need to stop it all now.

Fair enough that Alaskans don't do what the political pundits expect.

But going forward to the general election, we think voters should look hard for clear distinctions between the candidates. Which candidates want to work positively and cooperatively toward solutions, and which ones want to simply demolish programs they demonize.

As we enter the general election campaign season, ask candidates who want to change Social Security or Medicare or make cuts to federal programs how those changes will affect you, your children and your grandchildren. Demand details. Demand answers you can feel comfortable with.

And keep in mind, no single candidate can do anything once he or she is elected. Governors must work with state legislators. Senators and congressmen must work with colleagues from 49 other states and a president. Pledging to repeal and dismantle existing programs are hollow pledges. Ask candidates how they plan to bring change. Ask them, "You and who else?"

Let's make sure we aren't tantalized with campaign promises, only to be left with talking heads and no real change.

In short: Let's vote with our heads, come November, not our emotions.

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